Is History Repeating Itself with Obamacare?


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Since it was passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been decried by opponents as an attack on democracy itself. For those who study history, the cries of socialism are all too familiar. But if the past is any indication, Americans may grow to love healthcare reform as they have Social Security and Medicare benefits.

It's All Been Done Before … Sorta

Social Security and Medicare were enacted despite similar opposition; both entitlement programs have become immensely popular. But first came the rocky starts.

Guess the program: Which quote was said about which program?
A: "Isn't this socialism? Isn't this a teeny-weeny bit of socialism?"
B: "The beginning of socialized medicine."
C: "American freedom and liberty have taken a hard blow."

A: Social Security: An Oklahoma senator questioning then-Labor Secretary Frances Perkins in a Senate Finance Committee hearing before the passage of Social Security
B: Medicare: Statement by the American Medical Association two months before Medicare was signed into law
C: Affordable Care Act: U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in June 2012 after the Supreme Court refused to strike down the Affordable Care Act

Day One Problems

Each program had its share of major and minor complaints at the outset.

Social Security

  • Many minorities and women excluded from benefits
  • Arguments that it would cost jobs
  • Many employers reported earnings without providing a worker's name or Social Security Number


  • Lack of signups despite massive public awareness campaign
  • Monthly premium complaints
  • Campaigns by doctors to boycott the program
  • Southern segregated hospitals refused to comply with the law – didn't want shared rooms between the two races

Affordable Care Act

  • Disastrous launch of signup website
  • Arguments of job-killing
  • States refusing to participate

How Times Have Changed

Now that they're part of everyday life, Social Security and Medicare are hugely popular. Will Obamacare have the same fate?

Social Security
Nearly 1 in 5
Americans who collect Social Security or related income
Number of Americans receiving Social Security income (November 2013)
65 and older 41.6 million
Disabled (under 65) 14.3 million
Other 7.2 million
53.5 million
Americans expected to be on Medicare in 2014
Average benefit per enrollee (2012)
Affordable Care Act
10 million+
Americans who signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, though not all signed up for private insurance
Americans polled who say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act, though many say it doesn't go far enough



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